Why can kids trigger their parents so intensely? What is it about our darling offspring that brings out the ogre in us? Much as we’d love to shake our heads and say “I never do that”, I’ve listened to too many parents to believe it. We all act like someone we don’t want to be from time-to-time with our kids. More than any relationship, our kids trigger us. Is it just karma or the curse of our mothers who said to us “I hope you have a child just like you”? Neither one.
Our kids are specially designed to trigger our own unresolved childhood wounds and fears. The lost dreams, the forgotten hurts, and the beliefs swallowed whole without introspection or digestion are all brought to the forefront of our awareness by our children. Some of those things hurt. They are all hard to feel. That’s why they are unresolved. They were too big to feel and too big to deal with or handle when we were children. So we pushed them down and under and resolved not to look at them. We are still afraid that they will overwhelm us so when our kids trigger them, we will fight with our kids (most often using the techniques our parents used that we hated so much as kids) in order not to be overwhelmed by our triggers.
Parent coaching can help. One of the tools I use called Parts Work in the Style of Inner Empathy allows you to hold compassion for yourself and to talk to the different parts of you as though you are having a conversation with someone else. The someone else is a part of you but instead of trying to figure out, say for instance, your anger by thinking about it and analyzing it you listen to the angry part of you. You ask this part how it is feeling, whether it’s protecting you from something, and what it needs? You ask as your compassionate presence that cares.
Caring compassionate presence is one of the only things that allows effective change to take place. Withdrawing love, threatening and taking away privileges, and bribing don’t allow room for real change. They don’t. They are never effective to teach the lesson we’re trying to teach. What they do teach is that love is conditional and that force is a good thing to use when you really want to get results. We’ve all had enough of that.
So how do you get out of being an ogre to your own children? You probably don’t escape it totally. But you can become more aware. And you can cultivate compassionate presence for yourself and your children. From there, real healing and change happen.